Longford take on Tipperary in Round 2A of the All-Ireland football qualifiers in Thurles on Saturday next (throw-in 4.45pm), the first part of a most appealing double bill at Semple Stadium.
While the main event is the All-Ireland hurling qualifier between Tipperary and Galway (throw-in 7pm), and which is being broadcast live on Sky Sports, there will also be considerable interest in the football clash with Longford hoping to build on their wonderful win over Derry in the previous round.
That was a remarkable result as the county produced a couragerous performance to knock out the National League Division 1 finalists and more of the same stern stuff will be required if Jack Sheedy’s revitalised side are to advance a stage further through the ‘back door’ in the championship.
After emerging victorious at Celtic Park, Longford are on the road again and should they succeed in overcoming Tipperary the reward will be a place in Round 3A of the All-Ireland qualifiers the following Saturday, July 12, against Wexford or Laois; Limerick or Antrim; Wicklow or Sligo.
Make no mistake about it, the A side of the qualifiers draw is unquestionably easier and Longford could well end up in the final 12 of the All-Ireland Championship against the Connacht runners-up (Galway or Mayo) or the beaten Munster finalists (Kerry or Cork).
But the players cannot get carried away with the exciting prospect of achieving an extended run and are facing a tough task against a progressive Tipperary side who were most unfortunate not to conquer Cork in the recent Munster semi-final.
On the brink of a famous victory when leading by a point at the end of normal time, the generally young Tipperary outfit lacked the belief to get across the finishing line as Cork snatched the vital scores in stoppage time to survive a serious test.
The future of Tipperary football always looked bright after beating Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland minor final and the current senior squad will be hoping to make home advantage count, particularly with the backing of a bigger than usual support with the county hurlers also in action.
Longford, of course, would have been in a more confident frame of mind if Tipperary had to travel to Pearse Park. And while the home venue is considered to be a decisive factor in the qualifiers, Longford showed great character to buck that trend against Derry and will hopefully be in the drum for the next round draw on RTE Radio on Monday morning.